(Video link here.) David Saltman of The Houdini File alerted us to René Lavand, the extraordinary artist of illusion who passed away recently. His performance of the classic “cups and balls” is mesmerizing. Lavand, who has only one hand, performs with the grace of a dancer, weaving a hypnotic spell as he whispers “siempre tengo tres” (I have only three).

After he lost his hand in a car crash at the age of nine, Lavand taught himself magic because “All books and techniques are for two-handed magicians”. We can only imagine the focus, will and practice it took to achieve his stunning mastery.

Toward the end of his performance, Lavand weaves in a poem by the great 8th century Chinese poet Li Po, “who it’s said also played with three ‘migas’ (the balls of bread Lavand uses) while he recited his poems”. Lavand transforms Li Po’s  poem into a singularly magical experience:

I take a bottle of wine

to drink among the flowers.

We are always three

counting my shadow and my friend the moon.

When the moon hears my song,

When I dance, my shadow also dances.

When the party is done,

the guests must leave.

I don’t feel sadness

For on the way home

we are always three:

my companion the moon, and my own shadow.

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